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New Study Reveals Facebook Friends Are Unreliable

The advent of social media platforms like Facebook has made human beings adopt a more cavalier attitude towards friendships. When communicating online, people tend to see their friends list as an indication of their popularity and success among other individuals. As a result, it’s quite common for social media users to add old school friends, random people they encountered online and anyone else to increase the number of friends seen on a public profile. Don’t get me wrong, social media platforms are fantastic for keeping in contact with people across large distances, and some of my closest friends live in another country. However, there does seem to be this need to have thousands of online friends and show off. In extreme cases, some users even add individuals they never speak to which can only be down to an egotistical personality.

According to a new study by Robin Dunbar, human beings cannot rely on Facebook friends to exhibit a sympathetic response or act in a caring manner. Dunbar is already a renowned expert in this field with the paper, Dunbar’s number which argues people can only maintain 150 stable relationships. In this latest piece, Dunbar analysed a UK sample of 3,375 Facebook users between the ages of 18 and 65. On average, people had 150 Facebook friends but admitted they could only count on 4.1% of them during an emotional crisis. Furthermore, the data shows a mere 13.6% expressed sympathy. Here is a brief snippet of Dunbar’s findings and provides a great insight into his research:

“The sizes of the two inner friendship circles did not differ from those previously identified in offline samples,”

“Having a lot more than 150 followers doesn’t change things much, either. Heavy users of online social media do not have larger offline social networks than casual users, even though more of these may appear online for heavy users.”

While it’s important to reiterate that some online relationships are just as important as “real-life” ones, there’s a worrying trend of Facebook users only adding people on the basis of increasing the perception they are more popular. This really is a depressing notion and shows how narcissistic society has become.

How many friends do you have on Facebook?

John Williamson

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